Ideas Are All Around You

Wednesday, January 23, 2019
On Monday, Youngest Junior Hall returned a sixty-year-old mahogany bed and dresser that looked as if they’d been dragged behind the truck rather than in it. He and his friend couldn’t understand why I’d want these old pieces of furniture, or why I was so upset to see them in such terrible shape. “They’re just things, Mom,” said my son.

True. But I don’t see a too-small-bed. I see my parent’s bedroom from when I was a little girl, crawling in between them when nightmares woke me up. I see comfort.

I see my mom and dad helping me move the bedroom suit into my first apartment, on my own at last with just those two pieces of furniture and not much more. I see freedom.

I see Mister Man way back in the day, letting me sleep on the side of the bed I liked best. I see love.

I see the stories of my life, from childhood through young adulthood to motherhood and far beyond. And if you’re a writer, I’ll bet you see things as stories, too. I can promise you that the bed and dresser will end up in some story I write; maybe not as the bed and dresser but the idea those pieces represent will stay with me, showing up sooner or later.

I think January is a good time to gather ideas for the year, whether you choose to participate in something structured like Storystorm over at Tara Lazar’s blog, or spend those long hours indoors just daydreaming. I can sit at my kitchen table, drinking a cup of tea, notice my back gate swinging open, and then off I go!

Did some critter get in and what was the critter looking for? (A children’s story!) Or how can I fix the gate to keep it shut? (A how-to article!) Did my yard shift and affect the gate when we had that earthquake? (Yes, we had an earthquake and they’re more common than you think in Georgia. There’s a non-fiction hook!)

Ideas are all around! And once you get in the habit of looking at things for the story, you’ll find them. But if you need some help getting started, here’s a couple places where things generate plenty of ideas:

Read your newspaper. Not necessarily the newsy part; look for those weird things that involve research scientists, archaeologists, or historians, especially if you’re looking for non-fiction ideas.

Hang out in an antique store or flea market. It doesn’t have to be vintage to be interesting, though old stuff is my favorite when it comes to finding stories. Years ago, I bought a pin that had a name engraved on it; it made me sad to think that someone had given away this family heirloom. Just this week, that name from the pin called to me and I’m working on a new story. Don’t worry if an idea doesn’t come to you right away. Some ideas take time to develop.

Clean. I’m doing a bit of cleaning out right now, and no, not because of Kondo. I regularly clean out closets and desks and inboxes, but this time, it was the junk drawer. I threw away a lot of stuff, but it took way longer than it should have, and no, not because I was thanking every little thing; I was thinking about every little story associated with lots of little things.

So it’s not “just things,” Youngest Junior Hall. Now, y’all go out and write the stories about your things. (But you can’t use my bed and dresser idea. I call dibs on that!)

Cathy C. Hall is a children’s author and humor writer who hibernates through the winter, even in Georgia, because she can’t stand to be cold. But she did go out and close the back gate so Libs the Tiny Terror wouldn’t make a break for it. (And bonus points if you thought of this song when you read the title of this post. It's a great song, right?)


Lisa Ricard Claro said...

You're so right, Cathy. Everything is fodder for a story of some sort. That's good, because I'm not short on ideas; bad, because there's not enough time for all of them. But that's okay...better to have them than run dry!

Margo Dill said...

I smiled when you brought up Kondo--she is showing up everywhere. I'm guessing that bed brings you joy. :) I can tell by your very lovely post here. I'm like Lisa. I don't have a shortage of ideas! Just not enough time to ever write them all.

Cathy C. Hall said...

Yep, ideas I have a plenty. Butt in chair and writing re:those ideas is not exactly happening. :-)

(And yes, Margo, the bed brings me joy. I had to fumigate it first but that's another story... :-) )

Sioux Roslawski said...

Cathy--When I heard the song, I thought (in ADD fashion): Was that the song the pop singer sang in the movie "Love Actually"?

Linda O'Connell said...

The bed references evoked many memories. you are so right, there are ideas everywhere. Write on.

Nicole Pyles said...

Ah newspapers are such great places to find ideas! Especially old newspapers (Google archive news has a bunch!)

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